The Los Angeles Lakers are in postseason mode already.
They had 23 games left after the All-Star break, all marked on their calendars as must-win games, and they got off to a solid start with a victory over the Golden State Warriors.
Coach Darvin Ham has made it clear that he’s not planning to rest any of their starters down the stretch, and they all need to be on the same page if they want to make the playoffs.
The early returns of this new-look team have been encouraging, which is why ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith believes they can actually avoid the play-in tournament and beat the Sacramento Kings in the first round of the playoffs.
"I think that the Lakers can capture the sixth-seed, avoid the Play-In, and then win a first-round series."
👀 @stephenasmith pic.twitter.com/wYCiQ3rNps
— First Take (@FirstTake) February 24, 2023
The Lakers are currently sitting at the 13th spot in the Western Conference, just 3.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Dallas Mavericks.
Ahead of them are the Portland Trail Blazers, Oklahoma City Thunder, Golden State Warriors, Utah Jazz, New Orleans Pelicans, and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers don’t have an easy schedule, but most of their games will be against direct rivals for their playoff aspirations, so they pretty much control their own destiny.
Also, there’s a chance that the Pelicans will continue to slide without Zion Williamson, while the Jazz might also fall in the standings, and the Warriors will keep on struggling without Stephen Curry.
The Blazers don’t look like a legit threat to make the playoffs, so Stephen A. could be right about his prediction.
The clock is ticking and the pressure is on in Southern California.NEXT: The Lakers Showed Off Their Newfound Depth